MICRO – Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said Friday a Micro police officer “displayed poor judgment and unprofessional conduct” in the handling of an 88 year-old man suffering from a medical condition. Doyle also announced criminal charges filed by the officer against the elderly man have been dismissed.
The District Attorney said Officer Matthew Creech will not be charged with any excessive force violations but recommended he undergo additional training should he remain employed as a law enforcement officer.
The SBI had investigated the incident. The findings were announced Friday afternoon.
On the night of May 15, 2021, 88 year-old Ray Hail, a Korean War veteran and cancer survivor, was sitting in his van in the street in front of his home on E. Fayetteville Street.
Officer Creech was on patrol and noticed the van with an Indiana license plate and the parking lights on. Creech observed Mr. Hail sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine running and his legs propped on the dashboard.
District Attorney Doyle said the scenario would normally be suspicious to any officer and it was to Officer Creech who stopped to investigate.
Officer Creech approached the van and knocked on the driver’s side door but Hail was unresponsive. Creech opened the door but Hail was still unresponsive. Hail, with slurred speech, then mentioned something about the VA, the District Attorney said.
Officer Creech asked the 88 year-old to provide a driver’s license but he did not comply. Mr. Hail was covered with a blanket and refused to remove the blanket covering him. Officer Creech removed the blanket and asked Hail to exit the van.
According to the District Attorney, Hail began blowing the horn and refused requests by Officer Creech to stop. He made several attempts to remove the elderly man from the van but could not.
Officer Creech called for backup. Pine Level police officer Tyler Hicks arrived and observed Officer Creech trying to remove the elderly man from the van while he was still blowing the horn.
Both officers then removed Hail from the van. Officer Hicks determined the elderly man was suffering from a medical condition and was not impaired as Creech had thought.
EMS was called to the scene, however, Mr. Hail refused to be examined.
Witnesses stated they heard Officer Creech asking Hail to exit the van repeatedly and heard Hail tell the officer he was not getting out. Witnesses described the Micro officer as giving Hail “ample opportunity to comply” but he still refused to do so.
District Attorney Doyle said, “Under these circumstances, it was reasonable for Creech to investigate further after it first appeared that Hail may have been impaired. It was also reasonable to request that Hail exit his vehicle so that Creech could continue to investigate the circumstances. Once Hail refused to exit his vehicle, it was reasonable for Creech to request assistance to remove Hail from the vehicle.”
“While I have serious concerns about the way Creech handled the situation, I do not believe that Creech’s actions rose to the level of excessive force that would justify criminal charges in this case.”
Doyle added, “If Creech continues his employment as a law enforcement officer, I recommend additional training be required in matters of conflict resolution and deescalation techniques. At a minimum, Creech displayed poor judgment and unprofessional conduct in the way he handled the situation after he determined that Hail was not impaired.”
“Furthermore, Hail should not have been criminally charged with resisting a public officer once it was determined he was suffering from a medical issue. On a side note, (Officer) Hicks from Pine Level Police Department, should be commended for the way he was able to deescalate the situation and interact with Hail in a very professional, compassionate, and humane manner.”
The District Attorney said Officer Creech would not face any criminal charges in the case. The DA also dismissed the resisting an officer against Ray Hail.
The Johnston County District Attorney’s Office asked the SBI investigate the incident after excessive force allegations were made by Hail and his family against the Micro police officer.
According to social media posts by the family, in the 18 months prior to the incident, Hail, who was disabled, had defeated cancer, had a pacemaker replaced, and had major knee surgery.